With a considerable dose of cautious optimism, I want to recognize the city’s effort to address the (U.S.) Court of Appeals in decriminalizing homelessness abuse by some folks. Since it was I who hosted the November Town Hall and also one of the local residents who have expressed concern with what Crescent City Attorney Martha Rice referred as bold behavior in challenging sleeping or camping rules in public areas, allow me to be absolutely crystal clear on community tolerance by those who are genuinely homeless.
The need to rest must be respected; until there is a viable shelter in place, those individuals who are indeed homeless should be permitted to sleep and rest on designated public property but these folks must abide by the laws in our community: No public urination, public defecation, wanton drug and alcohol abuse, boisterous display of profanity, building of quasi-permanent makeshift camp sites, disturbing the peace, yelling at and intimidating local folks and out-of- town visitors who frequent our iconic tourist spots.
After these individuals rest and sleep, all must remove their tents and clean up their trash and move on. The Crescent City Police Department should not ignore the consequential behavior because some in this group of bold folks cross the line; there must be consequences for this unlawful behavior. Tepid tolerance of this anti-social behavior will be met with more severe aggressive behavior which can only continue to deteriorate our community.
Those who purport to be homeless and are not homeless must be vetted. Recently, one illegal camper told me he was from Brookings, had a home and bed to sleep in. He freely admitted he just wanted to have some fun. Several weeks later, he is still there having his fun.
Is the city doing all it can to address this problem of those who act irresponsibly? I am puzzled by Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime’s reference to the use of tents for those who are here for July 4 or Sea Cruise. These are not sleeping tents; no one should be permitted to pitch their sleeping tents in Front Street Park. This problem is 365 days a year.
City Councilman Alex Fallman’s reference to a hastened Supreme Court overturn of the 9th Circuit ruling and his “appreciation that (Rice and staff) are doing all they can to make sure no one’s rights are being trampled on” is disturbing. This reference shows a lack of full understanding for all of us who enjoy this beautiful area. I would respectfully remind Fallman that there are scores of individuals who abide by societal rules who have experienced ugly and unprovoked confrontations on Howe Drive and Battery Point. Are their rights being trampled on? I think Yes.
Mayor Blake Inscore’s recognition this is not a homeless issue but the appropriate use of public property issue, I concur. There must be an understanding that freedom to wield one’s fist ends where another’s nose begins. In a recent Facebook post, I urged folks to contact Inscore, City Manager Eric Wier and Police Chief Ivan Minsal to enforce laws relating to disturbing the peace, drug and alcohol abuse, public health, and a bevy of other misdemeanors or perhaps felonies, not to sleeping or resting. If it is the position of the city council to wait for direction, I would offer this alternative: answer those local citizens who reach out, listen to their concerns, don’t lecture folks who bring to your attention these inconvenient truths. It is not sleeping and resting which troubles our community. It is the realized notion that those who bring these inconvenient truths to our electeds are not being listened to. What I see is a decline in community quality of life.
As promised, I plan to host an April Town Hall at the Fairgrounds on this subject. I hope you will join me to learn what progress has been made to address this challenge.
Roger Gitlin is a Del Norte County supervisor.